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Assessing sustainability education in a transdisciplinary undergraduate course focused on real‐world problem solving: A case for disciplinary grounding

Sonya M. Remington‐Doucette (School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)
Kim Y. Hiller Connell (Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Cosette M. Armstrong (Department of Design, Housing, and Merchandising, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA)
Sheryl L. Musgrove (School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 13 September 2013

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a classroom assessment aimed at determining the extent to which key sustainability competencies develop in students during an introductory transdisciplinary sustainability course.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper summarizes three previously identified key sustainability competencies and describes teaching methodologies used in the introductory course described here to foster these competencies in students. The development of these competencies over the course of one semester is assessed using a pre‐/post‐test based on case analyses. The implications of these findings for academic sustainability programs are discussed.

Findings

Based on the assessment used here, the sustainability competencies developed differently in students with different disciplinary affiliations as a result of the introductory sustainability course. Business majors did not improve any of the key competencies, sustainability majors improved systems thinking competence only, and sustainability minors who were majoring in another traditional discipline improved all competencies.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to undergraduate sustainability education by shedding light on how sustainability might best be incorporated into specific academic programs. This information may help create more effective sustainability courses and academic programs, which may maintain the viability of current sustainability programs and promote the institutionalization of sustainability in higher education in general.

Keywords

Citation

Remington‐Doucette, S.M., Hiller Connell, K.Y., Armstrong, C.M. and Musgrove, S.L. (2013), "Assessing sustainability education in a transdisciplinary undergraduate course focused on real‐world problem solving: A case for disciplinary grounding", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 404-433. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-01-2012-0001

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited